Many people wonder what heaven will be like. What will people do? What will people see? How will people feel? Another aspect of heaven that people are curious about is angels. People read about angels in the Bible, yet they see them inaccurately depicted in popular culture. So according to the Bible, what will angels in heaven look like?
The clearest description of angels in heaven comes from John’s writing in the book of Revelation. In John’s vision of heaven, he sees angels worshipping God. The appearance of angels is unusual in comparison to any creature on Earth. It includes multiple pairs of wings and eyes, as well as animal likeness.
What do the images of wings, eyes, and animals mean? Will angels be spiritual or physical creatures in heaven? Will angels have gender or be of a certain age in heaven? Keep reading to find out the answers to these questions and others.
Also see What Does Jesus Look Like In Heaven? to learn more.
The Appearance of Angels in John’s Vision of Heaven
Certain authors of the Bible, like John, had visions of heaven, which they wrote down for all to read. Because heaven is an extraordinarily glorious place, sometimes authors had to use metaphors and similes (e.g. “their teeth were like lions teeth,” Rev. 9:8) to describe what they saw. This has led scholars and theologians to discuss and debate what descriptions are literal and which ones are figurative.
In other words, authors may not have always had the vocabulary to do justice to their visions so they used language they that had, which their readers would understand. Because of this, Bible scholars sometimes debate which descriptions are verbatim and which are so couched in metaphorical language that it’s hard to know the true nature of the vision.
Why are the descriptions of angels in Revelation so unusual? Angels are other-worldly in appearance and, as explained above, John was attempting to explain a supernatural vision using a vocabulary that was best suited for this world. In one sense, it’s amazing that John wrote down anything at all and wasn’t permanently left speechless!
“And around the throne, on each side of the throne, are four living creatures, full of eyes in front and behind: 7 the first living creature like a lion, the second living creature like an ox, the third living creature with the face of a man, and the fourth living creature like an eagle in flight.” (Revelation 4:6b-8, ESV)
Also see What Will People Look Like In Heaven? to learn more.
How Did John Describe What the Angels Looked Like?
The most striking characteristics of angels in heaven are that they are exceedingly holy and that they worship God without ceasing. They are also depicted as powerful, swift, and knowledgeable. John mentioned these details about the angels in heaven that he saw:
- Angels surround God’s throne: The throne is the center of John’s vision because God is what is most important about heaven. Sometimes in popular depictions heaven is comprised of a person’s worldly imagination. It’s a customized, self-centered utopia. The Bible’s description of heaven couldn’t be more different. According to the Bible, God is the centerpiece of heaven and angels and people will worship him there for all eternity.
- Angels are living creatures: English translations variously render this phrase as living “creatues,” (NIV) “beings,” (NLT) or “beasts” (KJV). The phrase is used several times in Revelation to describe angels (5:15, 6:6, 8:9, 15:17) and emphasizes that they are personal beings, not inanimate spiritual automatons.
- They have eyes in front and behind: Likely based on Ezekiel 1:18, the numerous eyes that angels in heaven have depict their knowledge and awareness of God and people. Angels aren’t omniscient, meaning they don’t posses all knowledge like God does, but their cognizance, insight, and wisdom are immeasurable to human beings.
- They are like a lion, ox, man, and eagle: Likely based on Ezekiel 1:5-11, the meaning of these comparisons has been the subject of significant debate in Christian history. Among the arguments that scholars make today are that the four creatures represent attributes of God (e.g. the man represents God’s intelligence). Others argue that the imagery refers to creation as a whole and that each animal mentioned has a superior charactersitic (e.g. the ox is the strongest).
Also see Are Babies That Die On Earth Babies In Heaven? to learn more.
Do popular images of angels depict them accurately? John’s description of angels is quite different than the way many artists portray them, such as in stained glass windows. Similarly, imagining angels as babies with tiny wings, sitting on clouds, and strumming harps is drastically different than what John saw.
What do angelic voices sound like? Most people have never heard an angelic voice, but John did. The angels he saw around the throne were worshipping God and praising his holiness.
“And the four living creatures, each of them with six wings, are full of eyes all around and within, and day and night they never cease to say, ‘Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come!’” (Revelation 4:8, ESV)
Why do these angels have so many wings and eyes? In his description of their praise of God, John adds that the angels each had six wings and were full of eyes.
- They had six wings: Likely based on Isaiah 6:2, wings may represent speed or swiftness. Some scholars emphasize that the description as a whole is intended to convey the magnificence of worshipping God.
- They had eyes all around: Building on the description that the angels had eyes in their front and back, John now reveals that they had eyes all around and within. Likely based on Ezekiel 10:12, the imagery of so many eyes conveys the same characteristics about angels verse Revelation 4:6 (see above).
Also see Who Will Not Go To Heaven? to learn more.
Will angels be spirits in heaven or will they have bodies?
Though angels sometimes take on the form of a human being, according to the Bible, most scholars believe their default nature is spiritual. Hebrews 1:14 rhetorically asks about angels, “Are they not all ministering spirits sent out to serve for the sake of those who are to inherit salvation?” (ESV)
Will angels be omnipresent in heaven? Omnipresent means that a being is everywhere at the same time. The Bible teaches that God is omnipresent (e.g. Jer. 23:24), but angels aren’t. Just because a creature is immaterial, it doesn’t mean that they are everywhere at the same time. Angels have spatial limitations and can’t be in two places at once. For example, the angel Gabriel had to travel to meet and communicate with Daniel (Daniel 9:21-23).
Do some scholars believe angels have physical bodies? Yes. Some theologians and pastors in Christian history have argued that angels have physical bodies, though their physical substance is holier and better than the physicality of human beings.
The majority view, however, is that angels are spiritual beings who can take on human form on occasion for a period of time. The angels that John sees in heaven appear to be in their default state as spiritual beings.
Do angels in heaven have gender? Are angels in heaven male or female? Most theologians believe that angels, as spiritual beings, don’t have gender like human beings understand the concept. Many, however, acknowledge that when the Bible describes angels, it often uses masculine terms (e.g. Luke 24:4) and when they have taken on the form of a human they appear as men (e.g. Gen 18:2; Dan. 10:18).
Will angels be a certain age in heaven? Some cite Mark 16:5 as a reason to believe that angels always appear youthful: “And entering the tomb, they saw a young man sitting on the right side, dressed in a white robe, and they were alarmed.” (ESV) However, Mark is describing an angel that is on Earth, not one in heaven. Furthermore, the angel may have been in human form, making it difficult to draw conclusions about their actual age.
The Bible teaches that God made angels at the time of creation (Psa. 148:2-5; John 1:1-3; Col. 1:16) and that they don’t reproduce (Matt. 22:28-30). This seems to suggest that the angels that exist now, existed then. If this is true, angels are quite old compared to the average lifespan of human beings. Perhaps some angels look youthful in appearance, but their actual age may be quite different.
Praise him, all his angels;
praise him, all his hosts!
Praise him, sun and moon,
praise him, all you shining stars!
Praise him, you highest heavens,
and you waters above the heavens!
Let them praise the name of the LORD!
For he commanded and they were created.
Also see Will There Be Marriage In Heaven? to learn more.
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